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First Time RVing (Part 4): Journey’s End

First Time RVing (Part 4):  Journey’s End

Our two first time RVers wrap up the final leg of their trip to California.  They continue to learn tricks along the way.

If you have not read the first three parts of this saga, I recommend you start with Part 1 and go from there.  Links are conveniently shown below:

Part 1:  Learning the Ropes

Part 2:  Life on the Road

Part 3:  Waste Not, Want Not

Take it away, Guy!

Day 4…and a half. 

We’ll begin at the end… because that is the best part.  What would make a comfortable couple drive 36 hours over 4 and a half days? Check the VIDEO and you’ll get it.  We arrived without calamity, or harsh words, to Henry eager to show us the new spider they’d found on their lemon tree, and beautiful Charlotte warily looking at these oldsters who she knows only by flat likenesses on FaceTime.  

As I write this it is the end of the fifth day and we are exhausted from a day of playing chase, a small library of books, puzzles galore and a number of trips to Grandma and Pop’s “house.”  Henry informed me shortly after arrival, “Our house doesn’t have wheels, but this door (garage) goes up and down when we push a button!”  It’s all about the little ones, and enjoying all the small stuff that comes with them.

Rewind to Monday Morning

It was 30 degrees F when we awoke in our mountain hideaway.  The RV held its heat pretty well, but by 1:30 AM we were both chilled.  Gale kicked on the generator and our propane heater.  It warmed the RV’s interior relatively quickly and was pretty quiet.  Both of us were zonked, and I was nursing a nasty case of altitude sickness.  It’s like a really nasty hangover, without the fun beforehand.  

The moon was still up.  Normally, we would just let Addie out, but in bear country, we made a noisy exit and followed her with strap-on headlamps to sweep the area for prowling predators.   This was a primitive site so there were no cables to detach.  A cup of coffee and we were on our way.  

God’s Country

Genesis tells us God created heaven and earth and then rested on the 7th day.   Our drive down the mountain in Colorado, across Utah’s Moab desert and into the canyons of Nevada and towering cliffs of Northern Arizona validates my theory that God never stopped creating.  The rocks are constantly shifting, rainy seasons will carve new washes down the side and the vegetation magically manages to thrive in some of the most hostile places.  While the desert was imposing, the cliffs and mesas were breathtaking.  

Coming down the many mountain switchbacks required some down-shifting to save the brakes, but other than that it was an uneventful, but stunning drive.

I do have a suggestion for the Utah Department of Transportation.   Scrub-land that is devoid of any grass or grass-like growth does not qualify as a “Pet Recreation Station.”  A scorpion couldn’t find a suitable place to pee in the designated area for the dog.   Addie gave me a baleful look, and without watering the desert, we trundled back into the motor home to truly find greener pastures.

Gale and I were struck as we came to lower elevations and the forests melded with the scrub, that we had never seen so many shades of green.  There were sage plants in Crayola teal colors that you would normally conclude couldn’t be found in nature.

The same for the reddish hues on the rock faces.

Vegas, Baby!

This was by far our longest leg… 10 hours to make Las Vegas.  Gale relieved  me at the wheel for 3 hours and I really enjoyed getting to the scenery.   You lose 85% of the landscape if you’re as focused on the road as you should be. 

One little idiosyncratic aside…every time we stopped for gas when Gale was driving she would crawl over Addie to reach the back of the vehicle while I handled the pump…. And every time.. as I was just putting the nozzle into the vehicle, she would hit the horn with something— giving me a blast as she was getting out of the driver’s seat. 

Three times this happened, the last leaving her in a fit of giggles as I jumped out of my shoes and got the stink eye from nearby truckers.   

pic of woman climbing over the driver seat of a camper

When we neared our next site, we were both surprised how fresh we felt.  I made mention of it… that I could drive a couple of more hours if I needed too, but would be glad for a shower, dinner and rest.  Little did I know how those words would come back to haunt me.

camper parked on las vegas parking lot

Now, we’ve sampled every kind of campground, starting with our state campground in Michigan, to a private RV park in Nebraska, a wilderness site in Colorado and now an urban landing spot— The Circus Circus Casino RV center.   Twenty-five acres of asphalt, six scraggly trees and a 400 square foot piece of Astroturf for Addie–not the greener pasture she had envisioned.  If you were looking for an economical way to visit Vegas, I suppose this is it.   We requested a change in slip to one closer to the pool and dog area, because it was 101  on the blistering pavement and Addie’s feet would burn.  At 5, as we hooked up, the sun went behind a nearby parking deck and showed us some mercy.    

Gale has the Fever, But More Cowbell is not the Answer

Nevertheless, Gale was immediately stricken by a fever–not from the oppressive heat, but from proximity to the grandchildren.   In her delirium, she began pondering if it wouldn’t be wiser to clear out of stifling Las Vegas and head 3 hours closer to the kids down I-15.  

We ordered a GrubHub dinner from a wonderful Italian place a friend suggested and while we waited, went back to the TripTik app to see what options we had 2 and a half hours out of San Diego.  She found a $45/night campsite a couple of hours inside the California border, just off the expressway.  

This is the beauty of not being on an airline, rail-line, or bus-line schedule.  You can call an audible, change your plans and move as the spirit moves you.  Spontaneity is a blessing.  Addie looked at us as if to say, “Really?”   She then parked herself in the driver’s seat to take full advantage of the A/C and refused to budge when it was time to go.  

black lab resting her head on a lap

The Shady Lane RV Park in Barstow awaited us, but not before one more little humbling exercise in Vegas.  

Our tanks were pretty full and if we were going to be parked a week at the kid’s house… we wanted them as empty as possible.  I went to the rear bumper to remove the dump hose and found it had somehow shimmied to the middle section of the bumper.   That meant I had to put my arm into the storage housing as far as it would go to grab it. 

Damn… couldn’t reach it. 

Gale joined the enterprise, producing a Swiffer mop with a long handle and we barely managed to push it close enough where I could hook it with a long-handled fire poker and drew the snake from its icky home.   My gloves gave some protection but I would need another shower after this.  

Back on the road…there were some interesting surprises.  We stopped at Whiskey Pete’s Truck Stop and Casino (everything comes with a casino in NV) just shy of the California line and paid a whopping $4.16/gal.—-double the average price we paid in Colorado and Utah.  

It seems every piece of infrastructure in CA is named after someone.  Sadly, several stretches of highway we passed were named for California Highway Patrol Officers who lost their lives on these freeways. 

The Dale Evans Memorial expressway brought back fond celluloid memories.  Roy Rogers Drive was on an exit sign… leading us to wonder why Roy was playing second fiddle in the roadway department to his beloved wife.  Ditches and culverts are even given names! We passed the “Flat Ditch” “Hiker’s Ditch” and Gale’s favorite “Moby Ditch.”   We made a list of names for the highway department’s future consideration—-  “Swimmer’s Ditch” “Jock Ditch” and of course, the always popular “Sonofa Ditch.”

shady rest campsite

The proprietor of Shady Lane normally closes at 9 PM, but was sweet enough to stay open until we arrived shortly before 10.  It was right across from the Barstow Drive-in.  We had traded 25 acres of asphalt for 7 acres of scrub and sun bleached hard-pan.  It looked like someone had parked 25 mobile homes on Kevin Costner’s driving range in “Tin Cup.”  I expected to trip over an Armadillo.  But the RV pads were swept and they were accommodating on short notice.  

As we disembarked, Addie’s expression said it all, “What the hell do you guys have against grass?”  We trotted her around the park, which was a comfy 80 degrees, and whatever she was carrying she decided to hold for someplace greener.  

The owner couldn’t be nicer:  a 70-something weather-beaten dude who gave us all the local knowledge—the best breakfast, wi-fi codes, wanted to know where we were from…a real sweetheart considering we kept him up after closing time.   I carefully hooked up the electrical—-to a box that looked like it had done service in San Quentin helping the baddest of hombres exit life in a shower of sparks.   We cranked up the A/C and slept like the dead before arising at 5:30A to hit the home stretch to Whitson, Kathleen and the kids.  

Reflecting on the Past 4 Days

Oddly, in 36 hours, we never got lost.  We never failed to laugh or have fun, even as we were trying to get the damn hose out of the bumper.  Gale never once gave me unsolicited driving advice or critique.  Sweetheart, I know how hard that was for you, and you’ll never know how much I appreciate your restraint.  

Gale drove like a champ in what were always challenging conditions.   We were two best pals on the road trip of our lives, paving the path from Detroit to San Diego with laughter.   

A number of you have said in the comment section you’re considering a trip of your own.  Stop thinking, start planning and doing.   An RV is your vehicle to achieving a dream during these crazy times.

I’ll have some closing thoughts when we get back home to Detroit, but until then we are going to savor every moment with the kids.  

Thanks for joining us on the ride. 

About The Author


  1. Lee Snyder

    A great, well-written, and entertaining story.
    Thank you for sharing.

    A word on bears. First, go West Marine or a sporting goods store and buy two of those loud horns on a can of air. Most boater’s have a couple. Keep this in you pocket every moment you are outside. This scares away bears, coyotes, and other threats. I have used one or twice.

    Next, at the sporting goods get 2 aerosol cans of bear spray. This is like pepper spray only a lot stronger. THIS IS YOUR LAST LINE OF DEFENSE. You can only use it when the is only 15’ or 20’ feet away!!!! Make sure you know which way the wind is blowing.

    I have never used this. The air horn always works!

  2. Jon Quade

    The arrival video was priceless… and the hugs had to be worth every mile of the journey. Enjoy your time in Cali – we’ll be looking forward to the return trip log! 🙂

  3. Bill

    Remind me to not invite you to any parties, Lee! Haha


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